Deputy Attorney General Writes Letter Responding to Issa's Contempt Charges

Deputy Attorney General Writes Letter Responding to Issa's Contempt Charges

Deputy Attorney General James Cole has sent a letter to Representative Darrell Issa about the contempt citation against his boss Attorney General Eric Holder concerning documents related to Operation Fast & Furious. It’s 15 pages filled with the usual excuses and lies from the DOJ about how they have cooperated with and fulfilled the subpoena from October 2011. 

There’s a problem with that claim: the Committee subpoenaed almost 80,000 pages. The DOJ has given them almost 7,000. 

He writes, “Furthermore, we believe that the core questions posed by the Committee about Operation Fast and Furious.” He continues, “Accordingly, the Department has provided the Committee with documents and information showing how the inappropriate tactics in Fast and Furious, Wide Receiver and other operations under review came to be employed.” If this is true, then how come we still do not know who thought up Fast & Furious and, more importantly, who approved it? The DOJ has all the documents, so they should know. How come no one has been held accountable for Fast & Furious? These people have blood on their hands, and the American people who fund their entire department can’t even get a name out of them. 

A lot of the documents the Committee has in its possession are redacted, rendering them useless. Mr. Cole repeated DOJ claims that the other documents are sensitive but failed to tell about the Committee’s efforts to accommodate the DOJ. In Mr. Issa’s contempt citation he wrote (his emphasis), “Committee staff has viewed documents responsive to the subpoena that the Department has identified as sensitive in camera at Department headquarters.” Then Mr. Issa wrote about a privilege log, which “would outline the documents withheld and the specific grounds for withholding.” Despite the Committee offering this accommodation the DOJ has yet to give one. 

Mr. Cole also insisted there is not a cover-up. “Far from reflecting a ‘cover-up,’ as some have claimed, the lack of documents makes clear that these tactics had their origin in the field of Arizona and not among Department leaders in Washington.” Mr. Issa’s contempt citation proved how deep Fast & Furious went within the DOJ. 

From a committee spokesperson:

Instead of providing straightforward and fact based answers, the Justice Department continues to distort the outstanding questions about reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious.

While the Committee has subpoenaed documents that address what senior officials were told about controversial gunwalking tactics during Operation Fast and Furious, the Justice Department pointedly refuses to provide them or to deny that senior officials were given information in the course of the Operation indicating the existence of reckless tactics. Instead, the Justice Department merely restates that certain officials have indicated that they personally did not inform senior officials.

Rather than agreeing to provide documents that include details about officials calling ATF whistleblowers liars and retaliating against them, the Department seems to believe a recounting of the Department’s public positions on Operation Fast and Furious over a ten month period is a sufficient response.   This response fails to provide critical details about unacceptable behavior by senior officials toward whistleblowers and how the Department reversed course from indicating that whistleblowers were lying to acknowledging they were right.

If the Justice Department seeks to avoid contempt, it knows the questions for which it owes the American people answers.

I hate to disappoint Mr. Cole, but the contempt is necessary. People have died, including American Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. He and the hundreds of Mexicans who have lost their lives in connection with this operation deserve justice. Their families deserve answers.

Mr. Holder just needs to hand over the rest of the documents and this will be over. It’s that easy.